Friday, July 17, 2009

How I spend my days in the woods

This is an account of a typical day for me.

Generally I am awake sometime between 6.30 and 7.30 AM. I get up and go downstairs in my PJs, if it is cold enough I light a fire, otherwise I start making toast and coffee for myself. For me, "cold enough" is 16 or below, at 17 I have to debate the issue. Will the house warm up on its own as the day progresses, or will it be cold and clammy all day? Usually, conservation loses and short-term comfort wins that debate.

When my coffee and toast are ready I settle in front of the fire, or what would have been the fire if I had lit it. Somehow settling in front of an empty fireplace is not quite so comforting, even though I am warm enough without it. My laptop is handy, as is the phone cord for hooking it up to the internet. I also have a pile of books on the couch and a nearby table, so I can read books or email and blogs, as the fancy hits, while I am sipping my coffee. I try to be off the internet by 9.30, in case there might be a phone call from Sheila about our morning ritual of walking the dogs.

At 10 AM we meet to walk her dogs almost every morning. I bike out and meet her somewhere along the trail through the woods. We walk and discuss our days, past or future, and whatever else is on our minds at the time. This is such an important part of both our days that we try to plan all other activities around it, but occasionally that is just not possible, hence the possible 9.30 AM phone call.

Our walk usually lasts under an hour, sometimes Nancy and/or Sherry join us, and very occasionally, Riley and Matilda. The dogs too have their rituals, there is a certain muddy ditch near the road and a pond further into the woods that the dogs must wade into. Moose, the chocolate lab, wades into the deep part of the pond and swims a few strokes, but that pond is so small that he really can only turn around in place before he has his feet on the bottom again. Oddly, he does not try to swim in the much larger pond where the frogs are, out by the road. Moose would like to add a visit to my house to the ritual but for various reasons we discourage that. However, every time we get close he heads down that trail hopefully.

After the dog walk my day is my own, I may decide to go into town or accomplish certain projects or chores, or I may simply be engrossed in a book that I want to get back to. Regular chores include hauling drinking water from Mike and Ruth's or washing water from the nearby spring, maybe splitting some firewood, and the usual cleaning and tidying housework.

[Aside: Mike has a glossary of Nova Scotian South Shore terminology, in it there is the phrase "shoveling smoke", which means doing housework. Shoveling smoke, I love it!]

The ongoing projects have been moving firewood and clearing garbage.

Last fall two cords of wood were delivered here and Mike hauled a portion of that firewood into the house in a wagon, the rest was left in a pile near where I park my truck. I stacked all the wood from the wagon by the house and then started bringing the wood in the pile back to the house with a wheelbarrow to add to the stack. I generally do about four barrow loads a day.

The garbage is old roofing materials and the remains of a good sized glass and wood greenhouse that was torn down two years ago. The salvageable glass is stacked under a tarp against a tree, the salvageable wood in another pile, but there is a lot of broken glass and nail-filled wood and old insulation and various other detritus in a big pile in front of the house. The roofing material is in a second pile a bit further from the house. Just over a year ago someone burned the pile of wood and glass and insulation in a bonfire that I think lasted for several days, reducing it to a big pile of ash, charcoal, nails, broken glass and unidentifiable melted stuff. The insulation did not burn or melt. Then I guess they poured sand over it all.

What I wanted to do was to get all the garbage into a single pile that will eventually get hauled away. I thought that the ash and sand would be usable for filling ruts in the trail into the house, so essentially I have spent the past couple of months painstakingly sifting that burn pile into usable and unusable, one shovelful at a time. So in addition to four barrow loads of firewood a day, I also have been doing one barrow load of sifted ash and sand. I know, you think I am out of my mind! But the good news is, all the firewood is stacked and I only have half a barrow load left to do of the burn pile.

All the garbage (well, most of it) is now in a single pile to the right of my line of view out the windows, neatly screened by a wall of four feet high weeds. Over the next little while I will start pulling up and/or knocking down the weeds and levelling out the parts of the trail that I could not fill with the ash and sand with my shovel. My goal there is to be able to drive my truck in closer to the house and turn around there. I could drive it in now but the turn-around is too rough to use so I would have to back out, and the trail is really too twisty to do that easily. I figure that last barrow load of sand and ash plus the trail levelling work will take one or two more days, depending on how hard I go at it.

Knocking down the weeds is just an esthetic thing, I don't really want a lawn but some open space would be nice.

I committed to building an outhouse here, but as you might gather from this account, I am avoiding it. I think I can safely avoid that particular project for the better part of the summer, before things start to become a little urgent. I have no enthusiasm for that task right now, even sifting ash seems to me a better use of my time!

The heavy work I reserve for the mid to late afternoon, don't ask me why, that's just my habit. Then I wash up and start thinking about supper. What shall I make? What am I hungry for? I listen to the news on the radio and then CBC's As It Happens while I am making and eating my supper. After that I may get on the internet again, or play my banjo or knit or visit Mike and Ruth. If I manage to get my supper earlier and the weather is good, then I may go for a bike ride, down to the beach or along the shore road. I love being in the woods and all the sounds and smells of being in the woods, but it is a refreshing change to go down to the beach for the sights and sounds of ocean waves on beach cobbles. The sunsets over the Bay can be quite spectacular as well.

And that is a typical day! Not terribly exciting, but pleasant enough. I actually really enjoy the sifting job and will miss it once it is done. Can't explain exactly, but something about it being a kind of meditative activity, repetitive but focussed. I am conscious of the wind in the trees and the birdsong (and bird arguments!) around me, and the smell of the trees in the sun. Hauling the firewood was nice too, a pleasant walk along a nice trail in the woods with a bit of physical labour at either end. There are certainly worse things in life to do!

But today being a kind of wet cloudy day, I did none of those things. Instead I had tea with Nancy while we consulted tide tables to plan a kayaking trip next week, and then went home to make no-bake chocolate macaroons and pickled beets. I also made a salmon and pesto spread for celery sticks and a big bowl of boiled local new potatoes, slathered in butter, salt and pepper for supper. I love potatoes!

1 comment:

Barbara Anne said...

Your industry, imagination, open hours for doing what calls to you, and the scheduled meetings, haulings, and projects are just the best way to really live large in your lovely setting!

Ta for taking me with you!